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Native American Sustainability


Submitted By silverssilence
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Introduction What we do about ecology [that is, what we do about environmental problems] depends on our ideas of the man-nature relationship. More science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present crisis until we find a new religion or rethink and old one. --Lynn White Jr. When it comes to modern civilization, few topics could be as relevant as the one we face in climate change and how our relationship with the earth has brought this state of affairs to be. Mr. White, a professor of medieval history and ecology, hits on a critical point (Vetlesen). Perhaps now is the time to investigate older beliefs and how they might allow us to adapt to our current situation, and perhaps improve it. The term “Native Americans” covers a wide range of individuals, tribes, ethnic groups, and geography. Despite these differences, many Native Americans share a similar belief regarding the treatment of the land and all that lived on it: that the land is sacred and should be respected and treated in a sustainable manner. It is this viewpoint that will be the focus of this paper: demonstrating the effect of European settlers on the United States’ ecology, some of the sustainable practices of Native Americans, and how this may have influenced modern society to practice sustainability.
According to the dictionary, the term ecology refers to a branch of biological science involving the “relations and interactions between organisms and their environment, including other organisms” ( In the United States’ ecological history there exists a dichotomy between pre-European arrival and since.
Before Europeans came to colonize the United States, it was thought that 46% of the country was forested. Between the 1600s and early 1900s, early settlers reduced the country’s forest by 13%—approximately 128.7 to 250 million acres (Becker). Additionally,

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