PC natives and environmental change

James Carucci (Carucci@SMTP.LMS.USACE.ARMY.MIL)
Fri, 12 May 1995 09:10:01 -0500

year. it seems that every 6 or 8 weeks, one "thread" or another
rolls inevitably around to some discussion about environmental abuse,
political correctness, and native reverance for land/resources.
HERE IS MY 2 cents worth:
I must agree with Ruby that indigenous groups will [generally] have
"far greater kinship with the [local] flora and fauna than their
conquerors".... but I also agree with Diane Bennett who warns that we
should not conflate kinship with respect for flora/fauna. Perhaps
Diane, like me, found Ruby's statement kind of odd... kinship for
something is not knowledge of, or use of... it is relation to.
Respect for resources is something else entirely... and note
carefully that one may respect ones environment and still push
certain plants, animals, or other resources to the edge of
While it is easy to particularize and loose the overall thread of a
discussion, like Anthony Zalucha, I am an archaeologist and I have
some knowledge of situations where indigenes have caused changes in
their local food resources. And NOTE: these changes were completely
self-wrought by peoples who were NOT subjected to conquerors in the
classic sense.
to wit: i work in western micronesia. i just presented a paper at
the SAA meetings in Minneapolis concerning the "overharvesting of
food resources in prehistoric Palau". My data, from a well-preserved
cave context in a raised limestone island, clearly show that
foodshells were impacted [they became smaller], crabs became less
numerous, inshore reef fish also grew smaller late in time, and pig
was probably extirpated in Palau (sometime around 1250 to 1450 A.D.).
All of this happened prior to white/western contact, and all of the
data are directional, and supportive of one another (i.e., the
changes in size of fish and shellfish correlate with each other, and
with the same levels in the cave deposits; the temporal trends also
are consistent, indicating that growing human populations needed
more/ ate more shellfish, crabs, fish, and pig late in the Rock
Islands prehistoric sequence).
Now, the really interesting point is that today Palauans are
rightly considered "good stewards" of their rich marine environment,
yet their own past indicates that they overused (and may have
actually extirminated) their food resources!! An excellant book
"Words of the Lagoon" by R.E. Johannes (1981, Univ. Calif. Pres) will
give you an overview of the indigenous knowledge/use of the marine
resources by Palauans.
IN SUM, let us not be "politically correct" simply because we are
afraid to share contrary data; let us not revert to a "noble savage"
view of all indigenous peoples being one with nature... these are
idiotic attitudes both here [in North America] and in the Pacific
where I do most of my fieldwork.

Dr. James Carucci, Archaeologist
St. Louis District, Corps of Engineers
Attn: PD-A
1222 Spruce St.
St. Louis, Mo 63103-2833

phone - (314) 331-8820
FAX - (314) 331-8806
Email - carucci@smtp.lms.usace.army.mil

*****All comments, ideas, and opinions expressed are my own and do
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