Stampeding bison?

K. Bevans kbevans at
Mon Dec 21 06:23:55 PST 1998

C. Proyect,

Native Americans also installed semi-permanent fish weirs in spawning streams, a process that would eventually kill off that stream to spawning. Of course beavers do the same thing. There is a tremendous amount of "waste" in the natural ecosystem, any idea to the contrary is idealization. The point is the native Americans could hardly do very much harm to buffalo herds or the natural environment in general. There is compelling paleontological evidence that the noble savages of yore did change the landscape significantly through things like burning, tree-cutting, introduction of new plant and animal species, etc. So what? Every species makes an impact.

The quest to renew bufallo habitat probably induced Native Americans to burn keep prairies as treeless as possible even though they weren't really tending the animals, just keeping the herds large. If native Americans had gotten horses earlier (and remained unmolested), I'm sure they would have become a culture based on grazing bison, just like those people who first started tending sheep, goats and cattle. I'm equally sure they would have done the kind (if not necessarily the extent) of environmental damage that those grazing cultures eventually did. Posit a few centuries for native American "cowboys" (or "buffalo boys", I guess) to tend their herds. Why shouldn't they go the way every other grazing culture did, from the people of the Middle East to the Europeans to the people of the Great Zimbabwe?

It's strange to me that you vociferously reject a "stagist" concept of Marxism and then decry every society that's developed past primitive communism. It's clear to me that the appealing nature of native American culture comes from it's primitive communist character. Without metal tools and organized agriculture, what did these people have except nature and each other? Their economy defined their culture as much or more than most cultures. When the development of native American culture was arrested by European invasion, they had a stone age economy. They used stone tools. That means their capital resources were freely available to anyone willing to search for them. How do you apply a culture formed under those economic conditions to our modern one?


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