Aboriginal Overkill and etc.

Larry Cebula College of Bill and Mary (LCEBULA@EWU.EDU)
Tue, 2 May 1995 22:08:39 -0800

Bret Diamond is correct that American Indians were less disruptive to the
environment than the Europeans who eventually conquered them, but the
difference seems to be due only to the different levels of technology
possessed by the two peoples. When Indians did acquire white technology
they tended to be as wasteful and destructive as whites. A good example
of this is the depletion of the buffalo herds. Though conventional wisdom
suggests that the buffalo was driven to the edge of extinction by white
hide hunters, the real decline of the species began when Indians first
acquired the horse. The environmental historian Dan Flores (in a 1992
_Journal of American History_ article) estimates that 2/3rds of the
buffalo on the southern plains were killed before 1850--by Indians.
John Fahey, in his book _The Flatheads_, makes a similar estimate for
the northern plains. Indians could be as short-sighted and greedy as
other types of humans, and they sometimes had huge, disruptive effects
on the environment.

Larry Cebula