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The Emergent Land: Nature and Ecology in Native American Expressive Forms

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talking about edouard glissant and his distaste for hierarchies, the separation of humans from nature is also a way to divide and delimit. hence our continuing ecological suicide. native american thinking on this subject is filled with humility and egalitarianism, and a much more sustainable way forward.

From Padraig Kirwan: For the Native American, nature and ecology represent and include what are often the most important elements of an aboriginal lifestyle. Fundamentally, the earth is the creator, a spiritual being containing a multitude of natural deities. In this way the land is the source of all sustenance — a powerful source of stories and tribal history, and also a definer of identity, both tribal and individual, whilst also providing physical sustenance. To these ends the term ‘nature’ in itself is virtually superfluous in a description of the Native American approach to the land. In western thought nature evokes a vision of a physical world that is separate and distinct from the individual, a world where mankind is placed above the entirety of creation. 

Ecological surrounds are not paramount within such western conceptions. 

Acknowledging this insufficiency of western terms to describe the Native American’s cognisance of the environment and its constituent parts, Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko has outlined the term ‘landscape’ as it is interpreted by her Pueblo tribe: 

“the term landscape, as it has entered into the English language, is misleading. ‘A portion of territory the eye can comprehend in a single view’ does not correctly describe the relationship between the human being and his or her surroundings. This assumes the viewer is somehow outside or separate from the territory he or she surveys. Viewers are as much a part of the landscape as the boulders they stand on. “

For Leslie Silko’s tribe the person represents a constituent part of the natural world. And her description goes further, with the individual being interpreted as equal to the landscape and the natural world. More here.

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