Review by John Fadden
By Donald A. Grinde and
Bruce E. Johansen,
Clear Light Publishers, 310 pages, $24.95 (cloth).
Ecocide of Native America is a very good book concerning a very sad subject . . . environmental degradations of Native territories. Environmental degradations on any part of the Earth is a sinful thing. It is particularly saddening when it occurs on the lands of peoples who have traditions of sensitivity, respect, and concern toward the Earth. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Thanksgiving Address, for example, offers grateful acknowledgement of Creation's bounty. Thanksgiving is given to the People, the Mother Earth, the waters, the fish, the plants, the food plants, the medicinal herbs, the animals, the trees, the birds, the winds, the thunder, the sun, the moon, and the stars . . . everything. Thankful acknowledgement is given to special insightful people who rise among the nations as spiritual leaders and teachers. However, it is extremely difficult to give thanks to the profit-driven individuals and entities who have created the environmental havoc portrayed in Ecocide of Native America.
The corporate despoilers have treated the Earth as a commodity. They have ravaged the environment with the steel claws of industry . . . raking the Earth harmfully, belching the breath of toxins into the atmosphere in spite of "environmentally sensitive" statutes which in essence are legislated cosmetic "bandages". The frightening spectre of the future, not covered in this book, is that the new regime of legislators at the national level are less caring than those who came before. They wish to weaken the already feeble legislations to give freer reign to the despoilers, much to the delight of some individual tribal "leaders" with their bug-eyed opportunistic greed anxious to personally harvest from a collective sovereignty.
Grinde and Johansen document the grim facts: uranium mining in Hopi country, polychlorinated biphenols and their toxic cousins permeating the soil and water of the Akwesasne Mohawks, strip mining with associated gasification plants among the Navajo, dams and logging debris clogging the arteries of the salmon runs of the Nisqually River, and other life giving waters of the Northwest. Even the Arctic is not pollution free due to nuclear dumping with a cancer rate exceeding the norm among the Inuit.
The uranium tailings, pools of PCBs, coal-gasification plants, strip mining, and other outrages aren't located in the back yards of the corporate stockholders, overpaid leaders of industry, nor their lobbied servants in the legislature. These degradations are located in the backyard of those who are unable to protest . . . Native communities, and non-Natives of similar powerlessness.
Charlot, a Flathead chief living in the Bittersweet Valley of what is now Montana during the second half of the 19th century, after observing the value system, priorities, and behavior of the newcomers made some astute observations that compliment the observations documented in Ecocide of Native America. The following are excerpts of a speech Charlot gave to his people in 1876, and are as true today as they were then:
"he comes like the dusk of the evening now, not like the dawn of the morning. He comes like a day that has passed, and night enters our future with him. . . "
"His laws never gave us a blade, nor a tree, nor a duck, nor a grouse nor a trout. . . How often does he come? You know he comes as long as he lives, and takes more and more, and dirties what he leaves. . . "(emphasis mine)
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