Nick Corduan (nickc@DORITE.IQUEST.NET)
Fri, 12 May 1995 14:02:59 -0500
Let me say first off, that as a rule we anthropologists like to consider
ourselve scientists, and that as a further rule, science is supposed to be
objective, detached study, neither advocating nor criticizing anything in
Now, that bit of semantics aside, there are a few other comments worthy of
1) I am sure the original poster has his reasons for thinking the attitude is
there, but I'd like to assure him that, for better or worse, most
anthropologists do end up serving as advocates for the cultures they study,
in some fashion or another. (Some start that way, even.) I can only suggest
that if he is judging the opinion based on the mail he receives, he's not got
a very firm ground -- people will more often be compelled to writing and
replying when they are in disagreement with something. Most people do not
generate a lot of "Hey, bud, right on!" kind of mail.
2) This issue of "indigenous" versus "Western" is very messy, since most
"indigenous" peoples moved from elsewhere, usually conquering previous
"indigenous" peoples. So when labels start being thrown around in such
discussions, we have to be very careful. And, when you come right down to
it, since the label is so ambiguous, what qualifies group A for advocacy any
more than group B?
3) To respond directly to the points of ecology (Indian versus Western),
there are valid points on both sides. Clearly the European-stock people did
more to harm the general Buffalo population than did the Indians. They also
clearly chopped down more forests than did the Indians. However, Indians were
not purely worshipful toward nature -- whether they asked for forgiveness
and/or permission during hunting or not, they still killed buffalo, rabbit,
and other animals. A dead animal is a dead animal, no matter the awe shown
it. Furthermore, the Indians harvested plants just as much as did the "White
Eyes." The Indians ate berries, smoked tobacco (and other plants), etc...
And a point which few people recognize is that people in and of themselves
are major sources of pollution: more carbon-dioxide is emitted by people's
bodies than by automobiles (whether taken indvidually or as a whole group,
since there are more people than cars). People also exude other gases and
toxins, and deposit large ammounts of unsanitary waste. (An interesting
thing to note, BTW, is that it was "Western" man that purified streams and
lakes from their previous bacterial infestations.)
Just some thoughts to chew on . . .
Nick Corduan "...there is as much dignity in tilling
at a field as in writing a poem."
(email@example.com) --Booker T. Washington