WMU News

Dispelling ecological myths about Native Americans

Sept. 26, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Native Americans were the country's first environmentalists--right? It's a belief that's more stereotype than truth, according to an expert who will lecture at Western Michigan University next month.

Dr. Shepard Krech III, professor of anthropology and director of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University, will present "The Ecological Indian: Ecology, Conservation and American Indians," at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, in Room 2303 of Sangren Hall. The event, which is part of WMU's Visiting Scholars and Artists Series, is free and open to the public. It is co-sponsored by the departments of Anthropology and History in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Krech, author of a highly acclaimed book by the same name, uses his academician's standard of documentation and evidence to refute the notion of Native Americans as guardians of their land, always careful to minimize their impact on the ecological "Eden" of a country still largely uninhabited. It's an image that Krech finds troubling because it pigeonholes all Native Americans under the headline of "ecologist," discounting the complexities of a culture that based its hunting, fishing and conservation practices on traditions and religion.

The book has been featured and reviewed by radio stations coast to coast, and by over 100 publications including The New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"Sheppard Krech is a provocative thinker who challenges students of Native American life and ecology to reimagine what ancient America was like and who populated it," says Dr. Michael Nassaney, WMU associate professor of anthropology and coordinator of Krech's visit.

The Visiting Scholars and Artists Program at WMU was established in 1960 and has supported more than 500 by scholars and artists representing some 65 academic disciplines. The chairperson of the committee that oversees the program is Dr. Carol Bennett, instructor in the Department of Business Information Systems.

Media contact: Matt Gerard, 269 387-8400, matthew.gerard@wmich.edu

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