Paper Topic: Judith Plant’s Searching for Common Ground: Ecofeminism and Bioregionalism, Catlin’s Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians, and Pocahantas: Nature and Power/Control in the Past and Present

I find the subjects of the ecological Indian and ecofeminism very interesting. I feel that they share some of the same limits and criticism, and that they are both linked to the idea of nature being used as a source of power and control. The concept of the Ecological Indian was used to dominate the race, just as the belief of nature as feminine was used to dominate women/empower men. I want to explore deeper into these subjects by comparing and contrasting the two. Also, I want to see how the Ecological Indian/noble savage  and the domination of nature have  survived through by the media and representation in History. A great example is the Disney movie Pocahantas. Here we have the Ecological Indian who is also a female– encompassing both ideologies. The fact that it is also a children’s movie is significant because it is a way of teaching/misguiding the young generation. I also want to focus on Judith Plant’s essay on bioregionalism because it explains the dualism between feminism and nature, but also has some problematic points. Catlin’s letters on the Native Americans yells of the domination of the race. I mainly want to focus on how gender and race have been controlled by the use of Nature. I want to discuss his idea of the “nation’s park” and how this concept is still alive today; we see it in museums and in the media.

Questions:

1.  How are History classes in public education shaped to portray the Ecological Indian/noble savage and the domination of the land by the white male? Are these representations carried out on purpose? If so, will they ever be corrected? Can they be changed?

2. Why do advocates of Ecofeminism feel that it is the woman’s responsibility to save nature and the environment, even though it was mainly impaired by the white male? If women have no place in the outside world (as it was believed in the past), then why do they feel a need to fix it now?

3. In what other ways is the idea of Nature as feminine portrayed today? Do other cultures share the same belief, and if so in what ways do they act on it? Why do some women embrace this ideology and find it empowering if it is used against them?

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by lpeake on October 27, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    I also see a lot of similarities between the depiction of women and the depiction of Native Americans so I think your topic is very interesting. I find your last question to be the most thought provoking and I think it would work well in looking at Native Americans as well.

    4. Why do some Native Americans embrace the Ecological Indian stereotype when it is based in racism and has been used against them and their ancestors?

  2. Posted by bhough on October 27, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Disney’s Pocahontas could be a very good starting point to your paper topic. I think you could also go in a direction of advertising media, using examples like the weepind indian we covered in class. Another question I would pose regarding this topic is this:

    Have there been any attempts by either native or feminine populations to change the way the majority of society views them? (As we have seen in class, there definitely have been) HAve these attempts failed or succeeded, and what implications does this have on the larger picture of feminine/native’s place in society?

  3. Posted by al002 on October 27, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    I think this is a very good topic. I liked your question “2. Why do advocates of Ecofeminism feel that it is the woman’s responsibility to save nature and the environment, even though it was mainly impaired by the white male? If women have no place in the outside world (as it was believed in the past), then why do they feel a need to fix it now?” A question I would suggest would be:

    6. If women were constrained to the domestic sphere how does the role of women in Native American tribes help or counter Plant’s take on bioregionalism and the dualism between feminism and nature?

  4. Posted by kbudd on October 28, 2011 at 4:06 am

    I also like your second question. I feel like you could expand on this question in great detail and make references to Disney’s “Pocahontas”. I also think it would benefit your argument if you ask :

    Has the stereotypical role of man destroyed nature to such an extreme, that it requires a feminine hand, or do woman have a stronger emotional connection to nature?

  5. Posted by rebsheppard on October 28, 2011 at 11:37 am

    I think the most intriguing point that you presented was your idea of examining “nature and power/control in the past and present.” The other parts of your topic sound a little broad, but that statement will provide a good starting point for your research (provided that you narrow the scope of it down to a select few texts/medium(s)).

    However, I found your question “1. How are History classes in public education shaped to portray the Ecological Indian/noble savage and the domination of the land by the white male? Are these representations carried out on purpose? If so, will they ever be corrected? Can they be changed?” to be a little out of place within your proposal. This sounds more like a sociological inquiry than one relating to 19th-century American literature/ecocriticism. Not saying that the question can’t be addressed–just that you might want to find a way to tie it into the content of the course. Good luck!

  6. Posted by yribaf on October 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I found this question to be the most interesting: 2. Why do advocates of Ecofeminism feel that it is the woman’s responsibility to save nature and the environment, even though it was mainly impaired by the white male? If women have no place in the outside world (as it was believed in the past), then why do they feel a need to fix it now?

    This question brought up images of the nurturing mother in my mind. Women are often portrayed as being able to comfort a child or heal people emotionally. Men are often portrayed as destructive, incapable of mending something that is broken. This may be why ecofeminism portrays women as being able to heal the earth and men not able to. This is a problem, though, because men and women must unite under a common cause in order to make any lasting changes since we all live on this planet together. Another question you could ask is: Is ecofeminism stereotyping women and how can we move past these stereotypes in order for everyone to take responsibility and work towards a common goal?

  7. Posted by bharta1 on October 28, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Awesome. Just awesome. These are some of the big issues. Your first question tells me this is going to be an awesome paper.

    In a country of “free thinkers” our school systems have powerful elements of indoctrination and they are set in keeping the Nobel Savage and Ecological Indian stereotypes in place, among other damaging stereotypes. Disney might be the most culpable of all media monopolies. They’ve promoted racism, sexism and sometimes outright bigotry. They also own many media outlets where they can broadcast whatever they please.

    Another question I would add is what about Indians that became translators or assimilated into American culture, what kind of narratives or helpful information can they offer, seeing as how they stood between white agrarianism and wild ‘savages’.

  8. As a history major, I found your first question the most interesting, since I know a lot of “knowledge” circulated in public schools is based on overly-simplified stereotypes. Going with this, you might want to answer a question like:

    11. How does an overly-sympathetic and idealistic view of native Americans as Ecological Indians do a disservice to themselves as a culture? How might it do a disservice from an ecofeminist perspective?

  9. I think that this is a good start, though the topic needs a little tweaking. Why not talk about the intersection of race, gender, and nature in Catlin and Pocahontas? Then you can use Plant and Garrard as theoretical texts to help you analyze these two primary texts. You also need to develop some research questions that are focused on these primary texts, since the main scope of this paper is a literary analysis. Here’s one example:

    In what ways does the ecological Indian function in Catlin and Pocahontas? Does the stereotype change at all when applied to a female character?

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