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Land and spirit in native America

Porter, Joy

Authors



Abstract

This monograph for the first time brings indigenous North American history into dialogue with recent work deconstructing key terms within environmental and historical studies such as "wilderness" and "nature".It does so with help from colleagues across and beyond the American history discipline, including Alaskan anthropologists,, nuclear scientists and scientists working on radioactive risk. It begins by examining the curiously negative or absent position indigenous environmental thought occupies within key contemporary analyses of world history such as Steven Pinker of Harvard's book The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes. It then traces the history of indigenous/non-indigenous cultural incomprehension within the United States specifically in relation to environmental issues and explains the role, both historically and historiographically, of indigenous spirituality in this process. It makes the case that current environmental crises in the United States cannot be separated from a long history of Christian environmentalist thinking in conflict with varieties of indigenous thought. The book explores this through analysis of parks and wilderness areas, gardens and gardening and indigenous approaches to land expressed through contemporary indigenous art, novels and historical writing. The book ends by linking all of the above to the phenomenon of Indian Nuclear Sacrifice Areas in the US and to fascinating fluctuations in how Indian numbers at multiple levels are calculated. In conclusion it answers the question of how indigenous spiritual and environmental thinking relates to a possible "post-natural" future. It does so using a recent mainstream film called "Into the Wild", arguing that it encompasses almost every aspect of the cultural incomprehension that has limited environmental and historical thinking over time.Land & Spirit in Native America thenmaps a series of new environmental ideas exploredwithinnew media, science and the arts and argues for atwenty-first centuryintegration of the best of indigenous and non-indigenous approaches to the current environmental dilemma. This book tackles a number of scholarly and popular preconceptions directly. Despite the association of indigenous peoples with "wilderness" environments, it shows that in fact Indian peoples have been at the forefront of modernity and have been forced to cope first with much of the environmental despoilation modernity has brought about. Thus it paysclose attention to American Indian forced migration so as to make way for the nation's "wilderness" parks in the nineteenth century and to the concept of environmental justice and the complexities of Indian life in the nuclear southwest since the 1940s. One of the book's particularstrengths is that it looks at the American Southwest, which contains one of the largest peacetime militarized landscapes on earth, in analytical depth, drawing together data and arguments from across disciplines. Itshows how Indian communities on whose land uranium is found, have dug it out of the ground and continue to live with ongoing nuclear testing and storage. This new focus and data is likely to spark yet further work across disciplines on this theme. Rather than conflating everything Indian with some woolly sense of the ecological, this book asks that we confront revealing truths about how some of America's most disadvantaged communities have faced environmental stress within capitalism. This has not been done before, as the academic and indigenous welcome the book has already received attests. Uniquely,this book takes Native American Indian history and analysis out of its intellectual corral and instead linksit to mainstream histories and up-to-the-minute debates.Crucially,it begins the deeply significant work of wresting debate about climate change away from scientists and literary environmental writers, a project that the book argues will be central to tackling environmental crises in the twenty-first century.

Book Type Authored Book
Journal Native America: yesterday and today
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Book Title Land and spirit in native America
ISBN 978-0-31335-606-3
Institution Citation Porter, J. Land and spirit in native America. The University of Hull
Keywords REF 2014 submission