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The Ecological Indian: Myth and History Paperback – September 17, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393321002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393321005
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A good story and first-rate social science. -- New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Shepard Krech III is a professor of anthropology at Brown University. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and in Maine.

Customer Reviews

There is no evidence for this proposition at all.
It is likely that populations of various tribes waxed and waned in response to environmental controls; that too is ecological, but not conservationist.
D. Reagan
Further, I would recommend this book to anyone who is just intellectually curious.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Jacquelyn Gill on September 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
There is no doubt that Shepard Krech offers a much-needed volume on the subject of American Indian ecological impact, and by the end of the powerful introduction he has convinced the reader that this may well be the definitive volume on the subject. The intro is a strong and compelling case for the re-evaluation of a popular stereotype, and should itself be included in the syllabi of courses on anthropology and ecology alike. The thesis presented in The Ecological Indian is a simple one (though by no means without controversy): the traditional image of the Indian living in non-invasive harmony with the land is not only false, but in fact does a disservice to those of aboriginal heritage by perpetuating the falsehood of the primitive noble savage.

Krech's writing shines when he wears the hat of an environmental philosopher and an anthropologist, and so it is with great disappointment that I made the transition to the actual substance of the book's thesis. In some areas (particularly those more recent historically documented cases), Krech strongly underlines his case. In others, however, he falls unbelievably short where the data is almost more compelling. Most striking was the first chapter on the Pleistocene extinctions, which oddly begins the book with arguments against the human overkill hypothesis even in the face of very compelling evidence. He focuses too strongly on the mid-80's publications of Dr. Paul S. Martin, when much more recent work has come out regarding human hunting that was completely overlooked. This poor treatment weakend the impact of the powerful introduction, and was a lost opportunity for strong evidence about early human land impact.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Hĺvard Hegdal on June 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
You might want to skip the first chapters on prehistory; they are outside the author's own expertise, fuzzy and incomplete in both arguments and conclusions. The great extinctions, in particular (where the author all but excludes human participation, a mea culpa for what is to follow?), is myopically rendered and should not be accepted at face value.

I forgave all this when I reached the main part; about North American Natives' interactions with nature, documented by Europeans from the 16th century and on. Many observations are illustrated with well chosen excerpts from the sources. There are detailed accounts of the impact of European diseases, of native forest fire practice, of hunting of bison, deer, beaver and caribou. The image that emerges is one of exploitation (often wasteful) by demand, not by sustainability. It's harrowing and brilliant. It could well be that this picture is incomplete, but the evidence is collaborated by literally hundreds of sources. And certain facts leave no room for argument: If you for instance believe (this really got to me) that your prey multiply by reincarnation in ever greater numbers as you kill them, you are not - by any definition - ecologically conscious.

The deeper lessons of this book are not so much about Native Americans as about humans, and the mechanics of human environmental exploitation. It is particularily recommended to anybody who has an interest in evironmental protection. The author clearly lacks the thorough biological understanding to bring the point across, but the value of the historical research seems to me beyond dispute.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pietro on May 5, 2014
Format: Paperback
A review of The Ecological Indian by Vine Deloria, Jr.

From the excited, glowing reviews of The Ecological Indian I had seen I was
prepared for a brilliant tour d 'force giving us a real inside view of
Indians and the environment. Instead I find a badly confused arrangement of
anecdotal evidence clustered around several topics: big game hunters,
extermination of the buffalo, ill-use of agricultural lands, mysteries at
Chaco Canyon and the Hohokam villages, and the use of fire. While presented
in a scintillating style, neither the evidence nor the arguments are
convincing. Yet this book has been applauded coast-to-coast as a major step
forward in ecological history. Do reviewers actually READ the book they
praise or has the anti-Indian phase of academic reaction reached its crest
with this silly non- indictment?

What does it mean, Krech asks early in the book, to say Indians are
ecologists? He argues that "because they are the most consistent attributes
of the image of the Ecological Indian, the concepts should be defined with
care. (p. 22) Unfortunately it takes another one hundred pages before Krech
begins to define what he means by ecology. We are caught, according to
Krech, between "those who think that Indians were somehow nontechnological
or pretechnological, had no impact on the environment, and were therefore
"natural", and those who disagree." (p.
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