Posts Tagged ‘indians’

News Article relating to George Perkins Marsh “Selections From Man and Nature.”

George Perkins Marsh “Selection from Man and Nature” emphasizes that “Earth was given to him for usufruct alone, not for consumption, still less profligate waste” (Marsh 389). Yet, man-made creations such as the automobile relies on oil, which is a fossil fuel that is essentially one of the causes of global warming. Marsh presents man to be separated from nature. By separating Man and Earth, there is room for conflict and struggle. Marsh says “ but with stationary life or at least with the pastoral state, man at once commences an almost indiscriminate warfare upon all forms of animal and vegetable existence around him, and he advances in civilization, he gradually eradicates or transforms every spontaneous product of the soil he occupies” (Marsh 393). I found an article that connects the underlying theme of how mankind is a contributor to the destruction of the Earth. In “skeptic finds he now agrees global warming is real” by Seth Borenstein, Richard Muller, a Physicist, has spent the last two years trying to determine whether Global Warming is an actual phenomenon. After much research and deliberation, Muller came to the conclusion that our current temperatures are much higher than temperatures in the past. Muller does not present new information to the table. What is interesting is that Muller’s project was funded by other skeptics. For example, Charles Koch Foundation donated one quarter of the $600,000. The Koch family along with others is known to run oil and other greenhouse gas operations.

According to many scientists, global warming is largely due to greenhouse gases. According to Shawn Lawrence Otto, Muller has switched sides and thus is not welcomed in the skeptic’s community anymore. Otto said, “”Now he’s considered a traitor. For the skeptic community, this isn’t about data or fact. It’s about team sports. He’s been traded to the Indians. He’s playing for the wrong team now.” This article is not very different from other global warming articles. The information concurs with the information from other climate scientist. However, “they question how much of it is man-made, view it as less a threat and argue it’s too expensive to do something about, Otto said.” Temperature is always fluctuating. What contributes to these dramatic temperature changes is man’s conscious decision to partake. It is as though man does not realize that his actions have consequences. Marsh said “ the action of man, indeed, is frequently followed by unforeseen and undesired results, yet is nevertheless guided by a self- conscious will aiming as often at secondary and remote as at immediate objects” (Marsh 393). Both the article and Marsh’s excerpt’s question what is the final goal or objection of the decision man- kind take as a whole. The question these large corporations have to address is whether or not they know the ramifications of the burning fossil fuels, clearing parts or entire forests and if they know the consequences, could the government, which is supposed to serve at te best interest of the people and have judgment allow such matters? In the end, our conscious derives from knowledge. the better informed we are the better choices we can make as a whole!


Marsh, George P. The Earth as Modified by Human Action. Ch./Art: Destructiveness of Man; Instability of AMerican Life p. 33-55, 396-397. pub Arno Press 1970.


Can find article here:




Apess’ View of Natives and Christianity

William Apess’ A Son of the Forest is a dense religious and societal commentary as well as an autobiography. Apess goes into great detail about his “once happy, powerful, yet peaceful people” (Apess 4) and how the colonizing whites had taken both their possessions and land and effectively destroyed their nation.  He argues against the idea prevalent among whites at the time that Indians are “not susceptible of improvement,” (Apess 34) but cites and example of their progress measured by their adherence to Christianity. “Let us look around us, and what do we behold? The forests of Canada and the West are vocal with the praises of God, as they ascend from the happy wigwams of the natives” (Apess 34) and  talks about reclaiming them “from the most abandoned and degrading practices and brought to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus!” (Apess 33) He goes on to explain that because of the mistrust that the natives have of the white man, missionaries have found it hard to preach the word of God to them. Apess is under the belief that the natives were descendants of the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel,” and being so gave them inherent rights as creatures of equal status in the eyes of God. The only denomination that had any success was the expressive Methodists, who Apess clearly preferred. “They preached not themselves, but Christ Jesus– and him crucified: And while they were doing this, they sought not their own advancement. And no wonder they succeeded– the natives were melted down into tenderness and love, and they became as kind and obliging as any people could be.” (Apess 34) Without Christianity he sees the natives as effectively doomed. In order to get any respect from the colonizers, natives would need to take up Christ as the first step to integrating or at least slowing the loss of their possessions and land.

Apess, William. A Son of the Forest and Other Writings.Amherst:University of Massachusetts Press, 1997. Print.

Question 1: Catlin’s Depiction of Native Americans

George Catlin’s Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians offers an interesting perspective on the lives and fate of the American Indian in the 1800s. The overall tone of the letter seems to be one of pity; Catlin pities the Indians for their inability to understand what is happening to them which he mercilessly refers to as: “the ignorance of the disastrous fate that awaits them” (43). Catlin emphasizes the greatest amount of pity and concern in regard to the white settlers trading spirits for buffalo skins, ““Oh insatiable man, is thy avarice such! wouldst thou tear the skin from the back of the last animal of this noble race, and rob they fellow-man of his meat, and for it give him poison!”” (39). The concern demonstrated in this quote is that of a man who feels guilt for the actions of his own race against another. The pity that Catlin reiterates throughout the letter is comparable to that of a parent for an unknowing child, there is sympathy intermixed with pity because Catlin sees and understands something that the Indians do not. This undervaluation of American Indians was very common for the time.

Though Catlin’s pity is clear throughout the text, there is also a slight allusion toward a sense of admiration. In spite of the beautiful qualities Catlin associates with the lifestyle of the American Indian he manages to insert an undertone of degradation and pity. Catlin, while observing the prairies, says:

“Nature has nowhere presented more beautiful and lovely scenes, than those of the vast prairies of the West; and of man and beast, no nobler specimens than those who inhabit them—the Indian and the buffalo—joint and original tenants of the soil, and fugitives together from the approach of civilized man; they have fled to the great plains of the West, and there, under an equal doom, they have taken up their last abode, where their race will expire, and their bones will bleach together” (40).

In this passage it is clear that Catlin is trying to emphasize the majestic lifestyle of the American Indian living in unison with the buffalo; however, what comes across is a demeaning lumping of Indians and buffalo together. The reliance of the Indians on the buffalo, in Catlin’s eyes, means that the two must share an untimely end. What Catlin fails to see is that “civilized man” is equally as reliant on the resources of the earth and it is the Indian’s ability to peacefully and successfully coexist in nature that makes them as civil as any other race. The grouping of Indians and buffalo together only furthers the stereotype of the era that Indians were savage, equal only to the beasts they live among.

While this letter may have been intended to shed some light on the unfortunate plight of the American Indians, it was certainly not enough to stir people to action. This letter was not a strong enough argument supporting American Indians, it merely brought forward some of the many, many injustices being brought upon the natives. Whatever his intention may have been, Catlin manages to both praise and undermine the lifestyle of this dying culture without ever truly giving it a chance.

Catlin, George. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. Ch./Art: Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians p. 37-45. pub. Penguin 2008

Depictions of Native Americans by Apess and Catlin

After reading William Apess’ A Son of the Forest and George Catlin’s Letter’s and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians I found the perception of Native American Indians from the viewpoint of a Native American and white settler to be similar.

Apess conveyed the viewpoint of a Native American living among white settlers.  When discussing white settlers Apess used ‘whites’ to refer to them which gave a negative connotation.  However, when Apess would discuss fellow Native Americans he would use terms like ‘brethren of the forest’ or ‘natives’ all of which had a positive connotation of respect.  Unlike these favorable terms Apess describes the negative use of the term ‘Indian’:

I thought it disgraceful to be called an Indian; it was considered as a slur upon an oppressed and scattered nation, and I   have often been led to inquire where the whites received this word, which they so often threw as an opprobrious epithet at the sons of the forest” (Apess, 10).

This is significant because it demonstrates the racist attitudes of the white settlers towards the Native Americans.  Catlin, a white settler, would often refer to Native Americans as ‘Indians’ without any negative connotation whereas he would mock the white settlers by calling them ‘civilized men.’  The negative connotation attached to Catlin’s use of ‘civilized men’ critiques the white settler’s exploitation of Native Americans and buffalo herds.

Another interesting similarity found involves the subject of alcohol consumption by Native Americans.  Apess describes how his grandparents, fellow Native Americans and he became alcoholics:

This cruel and unnatural conduct was the effect of some cause.  I attribute it in a great measure to the whites, inasmuch as they introduced among my countrymen that bane of comfort and happiness, ardent spirits—seduced them into a love of it (Apess, 7).

The very common practice of taking advantage of trading between Native Americans and white settlers is produced in Apess’ account and Catlin’s passage.  Both express the unfortunate circumstances of alcoholism that plagued the Native Americans as described by Catlin, “the skins were dragged, and dressed for white man’s luxury! where they were all sold for whiskey, and the poor Indians laid drunk, and were crying” (Catlin, 39).  Both Apess and Catlin depict the relationship between Native Americans and alcohol as the white settlers taking advantage of them.

Although at different extremes both Apess and Catlin demonstrate the separation felt and acted upon by both the Native Americans and white settlers.  Apess and Catlin relate the Native Americans as having a close relationship with nature, “the Indian and the buffalo­—joint and original tenants of the soil, and fugitives together from the approach of civilized man” (Catlin, 40).  This explains that the Native Americans and buffalo, nature, are being pursued to be conquered by the white settlers.

Apess, William. A Son of the Forest and Other Writings.Amherst:University ofMassachusetts Press, 1997. Print.

Caitlin, George. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. Ch./Art: Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians.New York: Penguin, 2008. Print.