Re: Advocates or Critic?

L. Anthony Zalucha (Calonsegur@AOL.COM)
Fri, 12 May 1995 01:10:54 -0400

I am new to Arch-L, so please excuse anything inappropriate that I might say.
First, regarding the "alarming focus on the negative attributes of
indigenous...cultures." I appreciate your desire to view indigenous cultures
holistically. I am not familiar with the Flores article. Please send me the
citation. Allow me to say, however, that I am upset by what I see as naive
interpretations of Native Americans as somehow ecologically "pure," as if
they had no negative impacts upon their environment. I am a
paleoethnobotanist. The literature is full of examples of massive
deforestation of extensive geographic areas such that large villages had to
be relocated simply because they were ultimately so far from the nearest
tree! When Rogers Williams landed in Rhode Island, the native inhabitants
were quoted as saying that they believed that the English were coming to
their land because they had used up all of their firewood! The commercial
image of the "crying Indian" lamenting the loss of the natural ecosystem is a
fraud. Everyone, regardless of culture, damages their environment; there is
no such thing as an environmentally perfect culture. Does this mean that I am
"negative" about indiginous ecology? No! I am simply realistic. We need to
look at the good and bad things that ALL cultures do to their environments.
Do not sink into, dare I say it, political correctness.
Second, yes, I believe that as an anthropologist I have both a moral and
ethical duty to be an advocate for the people from whom I earn my living. I
freely admit that I have not done enough in this regard. Perhaps it is
because I am an archeologist. Everyone I deal with is dead. And I have
serious reservations about modern Native
Americans who see every archeological site as "their" ancestors. Go back only
a few hundred years and the people I excavate are about as closly related to
some modern Native American as I am, as a Polish-American, to anyone in
Europe. We're both the same racial stock (whatever THAT means) and that's
about all.
So, without having read the Flores article, I can guess where it's coming
from and where you're coming from. If we're both seeking "the truth," perhaps
the cost is not being naive about "noble savages."
I look forward to replies.
L. Anthony Zalucha